Goler Memorial AME Zion Church has a new leader.
Rev. Dr. George Banks, a Wake Forest alumnus, will preach his initial sermon during a special service Sunday.
“We are excited about the opportunity to officially be introduced as the pastor to the larger congregation and excited about what God is going to do here at Goler. We’re excited about the opportunity to do our part to help make Winston-Salem be the best city in America, if not the world,” declared Banks, who relocated here from Knoxville, Tenn. with his wife Keisha and their three “rambunctious” boys last week.
Banks’ arrival comes several months after Goler’s longtime pastor, Dr. Seth Lartey, left the church to serve as bishop of the AME Zion Church’s Western West Africa Episcopal District.
Goler is the sixth congregation that Banks, a native of Ladysmith, Va., has led since answering the call to ministry in 1998.
“I did not think that I would returning to Winston-Salem, but God does work in wonderful and mysterious ways,” commented the 39 year-old. “We’re excited to have the baton passed to us and carry on the work of the Lord as God has so deemed it for this place.”
Banks spent 12 years working as an educator before becoming a full-time pastor. At Wake, he played on the school’s football team under Coach Jim Caldwell.
“I sensed the call to some extent when I was a senior at Wake Forest,” revealed Banks, who was awarded his doctorate from Hood Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio in June. “I’m back, 21 years later, to where God brought me in 1991.”
Banks, a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and his wife, an alumna of Winston-Salem State University, still have ties to the local community from their college days. Rev. Banks, a former secretary of the Western North Carolina Conference of the AME Zion Church, to which Goler belongs, is already acquainted with his predecessor as well as some of Goler’s congregants.
“I’m very familiar with some of the members and look forward to meeting all of them and soldiering together as we do God’s work,” he remarked. “…I’ve known Dr. Lartey and have long admired him and, as a matter-of-fact, have called on him over the years to help me out, especially as a younger pastor coming up.”
Goler has made a name for itself over the years as a driver of economic empowerment. Through its Community Development Corporation, it has transformed the historic Goler/Depot area by erecting a number of modern housing complexes and, most recently, the Goler Family Enrichment Center. Banks talks of “continuing to build on the legacy that’s been left here by Bishop Lartey,” including keeping Goler a church that is God-centered and ministers to the whole person and continuing in the vein of economic empowerment.
Though his unique gifts and talents will undoubtedly influence Goler’s services and work in the community, Banks says not much will change about the church under his leadership.
“I don’t think you change vision when you change pastors if the vision is God-given, and I do believe in my heart and soul that this is God’s vision for his kingdom,” he concluded. “Prayerfully, we will do our part and help God’s people carry out God’s vision for the kingdom as it has been assigned to Goler Memorial Church.”
Longtime Goler member James Hunder said he is pleased that the AME Zion Church has appointed someone who he believes is the right man for the job.
“We are thankful to God for answering our prayers and bringing us someone that will be able to lead us,” said Hunder, the founder of the Liberian Organization of the Piedmont. “Here we have this young man that is going to allow God to use him to take us to another level, and that is what we’ve been praying for, to keep the church united.”
The Rev. Dr. George Banks will hold his first worship services at Goler, 630 N. Patterson Ave., on Sunday, Nov. 4, beginning at 10:30 a.m. The service will be followed by a reception in Banks’ honor. For more information, contact the church at 336-724-9411.